How Do Parents Leave Their Kids Alone In A Hot Car?!

(The next day I answered this question with “Kid Still In The Car Seat” Awareness. Read it if you are curious to see if my view changed on this subject. Hint: It did.)

20 months.

I think I already know the answer: You sort of have to be crazy.


Today a news story popped up about a 25 year-old mom who left her two toddlers in the car while she went back inside the house to take an hour nap. When the mom returned to her car, her children were dead.

The problem with this story is that it’s too familiar. It’s not really that unique, unfortunately.

I feel like I hear of slightly different version of this happening a couple times every summer.

Assuming the mom in that particular story wasn’t insane, on bath salts, or demon possessed, I tried to imagine if I could ever end up in her position.

As soon as I heard about the story while I was at work today, I immediately reminded myself of this morning’s events:

“Okay, you definitely dropped off Jack at daycare this morning because as soon as you plopped him down, his friend Sophie started growling at him like she was a dinosaur, then immediately offered him a cup to play with. Yes, that was this morning. Not yesterday. You didn’t leave your son alone in the car in the parking lot… Whew!”

Even then, since that moment, I have questioned myself on whether or not I could ever become one of those parents who leaves their kid alone in a hot car.

I try to imagine a worst case scenario where I drive straight to work and forget Jack in the back seat because he was really quiet and content the whole time, which caused me to fall into a state of surreal solitude. I mean, life is stressful, could that ever happen to me?


Here’s why. Every time another one of these “parent left their kid alone in a hot car” story surfaces, it always ends up that the parent was less than a dependable and respected member of society.

There’s always something shady going on with them to begin with.

I’ve yet to hear of this happening where a “normal parent” like one of us finds themselves in a situation like this.

Until then, I think I’ll be able to keep myself out of a Shawshank Redemption kind of setting.

But really, I don’t know, do non-crazy parents end up leaving their kids alone in the car?

Do they?

Add a Comment
Back To The Dadabase
  1. by Elizabeth

    On August 9, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I used to think the same thing when my children were younger. There were two cases in the news here in the last week and I have never forgotten my children – not even once. I don’t know if this vouches for my sanity or not but that is beside the point. When you are responsible for the life of someone else, someone who is completely dependent on you, you put them first. I worried so much I would double check the back seat. I made it through their toddler years….now I worry about everything else!

  2. by Christie

    On August 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

    It is terrible, and I would hope that any mother would take seriously the life of her baby. I have an issue with this article, however, and it is that it is implying that there is something wrong with all parents who do this and it is perceived within their social standing. Obviously there is something wrong, whether in the classic daycare center story where the bus driver miscounted and forgot, or in the case of this mother you mentioned, who, for some reason, thought it would be ok to take a nap and leave her kids in the car (which is so bizarre to me, I mean, If she needed a nap, why not carry them inside and put them in the pack and play, if she had no other option…?) I disagree. It only takes one thing to make a person snap, and in so doing, that person, up to that point may have seemed perfect. Just because someone seems shady, it does not mean that they will leave their kid in a hot car, maybe the person judging should step back, and not point at others and call them shady. Maybe that person is going through an extremely difficult time, one that the judgmental person has never had to endure.

    Regardless, we can all help this situation, and there are various ways…
    1. Spread information like a virus. Educate everyone and keep on reading. Make it your mission to drop a helpful tidbit on a new mom (Like hot cars kill babies). You may be saving a life.

    2. Offer to help a friend in need. Watch their babies and let them nap! Maybe they will return the favor.

    3. Offer a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen to those who need it. Some people face what seems like hell on earth, alone, except for their babies. You never know what others are going through. Sometimes all they need is someone to listen as they talk it out and make a plan.

    This blog is somewhat hateful and judgmental, and it really makes me sad. At a time when we need to be there for one another, it is not right to make social labels. If someone is really unable to care for their child, I would hope that someone would be responsible enough to report it, rather than spread gossip, and I would hope that the state would make a decision that is in the best interest of child.

  3. by Morning Feeding: Is Cheerleading A Sport?

    On August 9, 2012 at 10:40 am

    [...] How do parents leave their kids alone in a hot car? ( [...]

  4. by Adrianne

    On August 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Whoa Nick! “it always ends up that the parent was less than a dependable and respected member of society” “Always” may not be the best word choice. Sure cases like that of the mom taking a nap while her kids are alone in the car make for sensational headlines. And she does have a history of leaving her children unattended (the news story told of prior complaints to children’s services). But what about Mary Parks (an accountant married to a scientist) who forgot one of her adopted sons in the backseat. Charges were dropped when an investigation showed her to be a caring and devoted mom who simply made a mistake. Here’s a link to her story:

    And just yesterday there was a report of an attorney in Nashville who forgot her 5 month old in the car until she went to pick him up that afternoon at daycare. I don’t know her story or history but I would like to believe that she was just under stress or preoccupied with work and made a terrible mistake.

    I really believe this could happen to anyone, even “normal parents” like us. Anyone can make a mistake even when there is nothing “shady” going on.

  5. by Jessica

    On August 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I just don’t get it either. I also live in Nashville and the two stories in the news right now just blow my mind. How does that happen? How is someone that distracted? Forgetful? or is just carelessness?

    My heart goes out to the families of the babies that died…but I’m just not sure what to think about the parents.

  6. by Amber

    On August 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    I would go as far as to say that you were way off when you said this only happens to bad parents. I would highly suggest that you read the Pulitzer Prize winning article, Fatal Distraction, that was done on this very topic. It may just enlighten you on how this can and DOES happen to even the most loving, responsible, even doting parents.
    While these tragedies do sometimes involve neglect, the overwhelming majority are upstanding citizens, responible parents… it has happened to a teacher, social worker, pediatrician, vetrinarian, pastor… and guess what… even a rocket scientist.
    I would also suggest checking out the website. They are the group that has brought this issue to national attention and been working to raise awareness and prevent these tragedies for over a decade. I hope that you are able to see that the worst thing any parent could do is to think that this would never happen to them. While I do understand this is a difficult thing to wrap your head around at first, I am confident that after you read Fatal Distraction, you too will see that these tragedies happen to “good” parents. Please let me know how the article changes your view, I would love to know. Thanks and much love and prayers for the families who have lost their little angels.

  7. by Nick Shell

    On August 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks Adrianne. I’ve never heard the stories you’ve provided me with. I wish it wasn’t just the “crazy parents” that stick out in my mind. But it is. And you’re right; when it happens to a “normal” parent, I feel that it is a less sensational story so less people hear about it. Hopefully more people like you will bring to the table more stories like you did, to help de-stigmatize “hot babies in a hot car” stories. Until then, I’m still stuck on a familiar stereotype. And this is why I published this, to find out truth exist beyond to too familiar version that we know.

  8. by Holly

    On August 9, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    It’s interesting that in each of the links provided above the mothers were working moms, both attorneys with other “things” on their minds. Another reason I’m thankful I a stay-at-home-mom whose mind is consumed with her children continuously.

  9. by Kim

    On August 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    I`ve left my kid alone in the car, long enough to run in and pay for gas. Or in the exceptionally early morning, long enough to reach down for his hand and have a panic attack because hes nowhere in sight in a large parking lot. But, I was raised in Texas, and still live here. I have had it drilled into from the time I was 4, summer is hot, and a hot car can kill pets and kids. Yes, my mother used those exact words with a 4 year old, and the lesson stuck.